Clearly, when I say ‘we’, I don’t mean you and me. As a responsible Speccie reader I’m sure you know next to nothing about making bombs and have neither the capacity nor inclination to drop bombs on other countries. Nor do I mean the Australian Defence Force on our behalf.
When the ABC recently made the claim that; ‘Senior figures in the Turnbull government have told the ABC they believe the United States is prepared to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, perhaps as early as next month, and that Australia is poised to help identify possible targets,’ the story very quickly went around the world. The Irrigator, the Milton and Ulladulla Times, and the Gatton Star, were only some of the leading global news outlets which poured scorn on the ABC story.
Malcom Turnbull and senior members of his cabinet all denied that the story had any basis in fact. But those watching Malcolm refute the claims made in the ABC article could not have missed the way he carefully chose his words. It was obvious that Malcolm knows more about this matter than he was prepared to reveal on national television.
It is also obvious that Malcolm is a hopeless liar. This is, I suppose, a good thing as we generally prefer our leaders to be honest with us. But we all recognise that from time to time there are things that cannot be discussed as openly as we would like and the question of whether we should bomb Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons is possibly one of them.
Or is it?
Well no it isn’t. The fact is that a great deal of thought and discussion has gone into ways of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and much of that thought has been openly canvassed in a variety of forums. Our own Geoffrey Robertson, one of the world’s most famous celebrity lawyers, in 2012, published a very closely argued book about why the world is justified in doing whatever it takes to destroy Iran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons (Mullahs Without Mercy).
The case is very strong. Robertson points out that the current regime already has a history of crimes against humanity. With the forensic clarity that made him so memorable in the Hypotheticals television programmes, Robertson goes through the reasons why we should not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
In 1988, thousands of leftist and Marxist opponents of the Mullahs were rounded up and executed without trial. No one will ever know the exact number of killed but the regime which committed these atrocities is still in power and there is no evidence of any change of heart amongst its current leaders. So mass murder is OK as far as the current regime goes.
Individuals also can be targeted if they get up the nose of the thugs and zealots who continue to run Iran. Everyone remembers the fatwah against Salman Rushdie. How many of us remember the numerous assassinations of dissident Iranians around the world in the 1990s
Those assassinations have stopped now, not because the Iranian regime has lost its appetite for murder, but rather because all of the significant dissidents are now dead or in hiding.
At the conclusion of his book Robertson chillingly argues that ‘Iran must be stopped… because (the Mullahs)… have committed unrequited atrocities in the recent past, and may commit them again’.
Iran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons because, at some point in time, the world has to develop the capacity to control the inexorable proliferation of nuclear weapons and that time is now. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons then Saudi Arabia may require its own nuclear weapons. Just as the possession of nuclear weaponry by North Korea will increase pressure on North Asian states to develop their own equivalents, so the nuclear capacity of rogue nations in the Middle East will trigger an arms race. The greater the number of nations that possess nuclear weapons, the greater will be the difficulty in preventing other nations from also acquiring equivalent weaponry.If nuclear proliferation cannot be controlled now then it is only a matter of time before the nations of Central Asia – nations which most of us have never heard of – will look to acquiring nuclear weapons to protect themselves from expansionist pressures of their giant neighbors.
In 2007, an Israeli air strike destroyed the nuclear reactor facilities of Assad’s Syria. There can be no doubt that the only thing that has prevented Israel from making a similar air strike on Iran is a promise from the United States that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
The United States under Obama, and the European nations, put their faith in developing agreements which they hoped would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The evidence is that those agreements have not worked. History has repeatedly shown that, for rogue nations, such agreements are meaningless.
The dilemma for Donald Trump is exquisite. He has poured contempt on traditional diplomacy favored by the Europeans and his predecessor. He therefore has to prove that he has a better strategy. The evidence so far is that his much vaunted negotiations with the Koreans have been fruitless. Did he really believe that the Kim regime was going to willingly relinquish the one thing that, in their eyes, guarantees their safety?
Is it possible that Trump went into negotiations with Kim Jong-un knowing that they would fail but that the failure would enable him to argue that negotiation was futile, thereby leaving him with no option but the physical destruction of nuclear weapons held by rogue states?
Whatever his reasons, the fact remains that the longer he delays a decision to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, the greater the number of casualties. Once nuclear weapons are created then their destruction may release into the atmosphere toxic radiation similar to that released in the Chernobyl meltdown.
Unless Iran’s leaders can somehow finally be persuaded to genuinely end its nuclear weapons programme then the question becomes, not if it should be bombed, but when.
Tony Letford was the winner of the 2015 Spectator Thawley Essay Prize